Little Orphant Annie

Little Orphant Annie by Gertrude Elliott

When I was a wee girl living with my Grandmother, she bought me a book called The Golden Book of Poetry. God bless her heart. And this was one of the many books she used to read to me before I went to bed at night. Without a doubt my favorite poem in this book was “Little Oprhant Annie” and to this day, as I read it or hear it read the cadence rings deep in delight within my being. I feel the child’s delight at the rhythm and the intention embedded so skillfully into the poem by author James Witcomb Riley. I loved this poem so much as a child that one day I gathered up the neighborhood children and had them memorize the poem, which we later recited to any other children and parents willing to “come see our show” which took place on the wooden porch of the children who lived next door. And now I share with all of you. I hope you will read with delight to the children in your lives and carry on the joy Riley imparted in 1890 in his book Rhymes of Childhood!

Little Orphant Annie
by James Witcomb Riley

Inscribed with all faith and affection
To all the little children:–The happy ones,
and the sad ones,
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous
and glad ones;
The good ones–Yes, the good ones, too;
and all the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the
crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the
hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her
An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at git you
Ef you

Onc’t they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his
An’ when he went to bed at night, away upstairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd
him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t
there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter room, an’ cubby-
hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-
wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz jist his pants an’
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
If you

An’ one time a little girl ‘us allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood -an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks
wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t
An’ jist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by
her side,
‘An they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she
knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond
an’ dear,
An’ churish them as loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

Love and Halloween blessings,
Kathryn xoxoo

20 Responses to “Little Orphant Annie”

  1. I’d never heard this before, but I could just picture you reciting this as a small child! πŸ™‚

  2. Good morning, Liz! That’s very funny! I myself had not actually pictured myself reciting this to an audience, but it’s a fun image to ponder! I more resonated with the feeling of it. I know I could have written the line, “and all the lovely bad ones”! LOL! Thanks, Liz. Kathryn xoox

  3. Kathryn!
    I had that book! I loved it and i remember this image very well.
    I just went looking for it, but I could not find it.
    I remember it had the Owl and the Pussycat and so many captivating illustrations.
    This is perfect for Halloween!
    I just loved that you had a show on the wooden porch.
    Such wonderful memories!

  4. Hi, Philip! You did??!! LOL! I love that! Yes, the Owl and the Pussycat are in there, too! I hope you still have it. It’s a miracle I still do. πŸ™‚ Yes, I thought it was perfect for Halloween, too! I sent it out on Twitter, too. I hope
    someone read to a child! Glad you knew it, too. Kathryn xoox

  5. Kathryn:
    Thank you, thank you for this wonderful James Whitcomb Riley memory. Ed and I were just talking about this poem the other day and I was going to look it up because I could only remember the first stanza. We are attached to James Whitcomb Riley in several ways. My Indiana childhood was full of reading and memorizing Riley’s poems since he was the “Indiana Poet” or “Hoosier Poet”. We always referred to him by his full name so we would not confuse him with any other Riley poet, I guess. As Ed was doing his “Rice” line to western Ohio, he discovered that one of Riley’s family member married into Ed’s family, so they are linked by marriage which is pretty neat. The Riley home is in Greenfield, Indiana on the old National Road (US Rt. 40). I think the family was Quaker, which would fit the Greenfield location and marriage with Ed’s family, but I may be wrong on that. There is a web site for him at Probably what is most important, however, is the fact the Annie was an Orphan and was let out to a farming family to “help out” for her keep, much like Anne of Green Gables. This was NOT an unusual practice, often better than living in the county home, but not always. It’s a very interesting commentary on how we handled our care of those who were less fortunate. Today, if there is no family, children are placed in the Foster Care system until possibly adopted. It was not that many years ago that we farmed out kids to whoever would take them. This happened to my great-grandmother, Flora Gray Hodges Matthewson. She and her brother ended up with the Gray & Hodges family from Vermont on what became the family farm in DeKalb County, Illinois. The Hodges adopted her, educated her and eventurally left her the farm, but I have no idea what happened to her brother and while I know there were I bunch of other childre, I have no idea where they went, nor do I know her original family name.
    If you are doing “seasonal” poetry, you need to do Riley’s “When the Frost is on the Pumpkin” as well.
    Hugs from central Ohio where our Impatients have still not been wiped out by a killing frost and my Golden Wings rose is in bud again!
    Love, Julie

  6. Oh, Julie, this is the most wonderful comment! I will spend time perusing the Riley site today. Thank you for that. I had not gotten to it, lost in my childhood nostalgia. And thanks for the family history. Fascinating! Yes, of course I do know that children were apprenticed out to families, sometimes for the better and often for the worse, beholden as they were, poor dears. I will look up the second Riley poem, which sounds very familiar and enticing! Glad you have fall roses! Love and hugs, Kathryn xoxo

  7. So sweet, mom! I could definitely see you reciting this as a child! πŸ˜€

    Love you,

  8. Awww, sweet, Antonia. Thanks, dear. Much love, Mommie xoxo

  9. Your recollection sent me scurrying to my bookshelf because I was just sure that my favorite childhood poem was a James Whitcomb Riley, too. Turns out, it was Eugene Field, but they must have been related! Mine is “Seein Things” and my mother pasted the pages together to keep me from looking at the illustration and having nightmares. (I carefully pried them apart, though!)

    Seein’ Things
    by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

    I ain’t afeard uv snakes, or toads, or bugs, or worms, or mice,
    An’ things ‘at girls are skeered uv I think are awful nice!
    I ‘m pretty brave, I guess; an’ yet I hate to go to bed,
    For, when I ‘m tucked up warm an’ snug an’ when my prayers are said,
    Mother tells me “Happy dreams!” and takes away the light,
    An’ leaves me lyin’ all alone an’ seein’ things at night!

    Sometimes they ‘re in the corner, sometimes they ‘re by the door,
    Sometimes they ‘re all a-standin’ in the middle uv the floor;
    Sometimes they are a-sittin’ down, sometimes they ‘re walkin’ round
    So softly an’ so creepylike they never make a sound!
    Sometimes they are as black as ink, an’ other times they ‘re white—
    But the color ain’t no difference when you see things at night!

    Once, when I licked a feller ‘at had just moved on our street,
    An’ father sent me up to bed without a bite to eat,
    I woke up in the dark an’ saw things standin’ in a row,
    A-lookin’ at me cross-eyed an’ p’intin’ at me so!
    Oh, my! I wuz so skeered that time I never slep’ a mite—
    It’s almost alluz when I ‘m bad I see things at night!

    Lucky thing I ain’t a girl, or I ‘d be skeered to death!
    Bein’ I ‘m a boy, I duck my head an’ hold my breath;
    An’ I am, oh! so sorry I ‘m a naughty boy, an’ then
    I promise to be better an’ I say my prayers again!
    Gran’ma tells me that ‘s the only way to make it right
    When a feller has been wicked an’ sees things at night!

    An’ so, when other naughty boys would coax me into sin,
    I try to skwush the Tempter’s voice ‘at urges me within;
    An’ when they ‘s pie for supper, or cakes ‘at ‘s big an’ nice,
    I want to—but I do not pass my plate f’r them things twice!
    No, ruther let Starvation wipe me slowly out o’ sight
    Than I should keep a-livin’ on an’ seein’ things at night!

  10. Oh, Loma, this is WONDERFUL! Yes, same vintage! Funny, huh? Thank you so much for sharing. I will read again and again! Love, Kathryn xooxo

  11. Kathryn
    Just (happily!) discovered the Little Orphant Annie post..
    While I was in college, my elderly grandmother gave me her frayed, green, cloth-covered volume of the collected works of James Whitcomb Riley. I had so loved hearing her read to us, and she wanted me to pass along the love of poetry. As a teacher, it became one of my favorite practices to read Little Orphant Annie, complete with dramatic voice changes and pauses- and have my students (and my own children) echo
    Er the Gobble-uns β€˜ll git you
    Ef you
    Thank you, Kathryn, for the warm memories this post brought back… I do love your thoughtful writing and beautiful photos…
    We miss you!

  12. Awwww, Melanie! This comment brought tears to my eyes and really touched my heart! I love that your grandmother introduced you to Riley and now I’m going to have to find a book of his poetry. How endearing that you taught your students the Little Orphant Annie poem! I hope other teachers will find this exchange and be inspired to do same! Thank you for your kind words. I miss you guys, too! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  13. I loved this poem as a little girl! My mom read it to me every night. I’d love to find a similar book for my little girl, if anyone knows of another book that isn’t selling for 100+ online.

  14. Hi, Heather! Welcome! Every night? You surely know it by heart. I bet there’s a collection of this poet’s poetry you might find. Best wishes. It is, indeed, a wonderful thing to introduce children to poetry. Kathryn xoxo

  15. The inter-net is a wonderful tool for generating nostalgia. Last night as my wife and I were prodding our two grandsons, six and nine, to get ready for bed (their monthly sleep-over at Gran’ma’s) the boys were asking their standard question “What bedtime story are you going to tell us tonight, Grandpa?” I don’t know why this poem popped into my head as it had been thirty-five years since I had recited it to their father and uncles. Running it through in my mind, I realized that there were only a few lines here and there that I could not remember so while they were brushing their teeth, I Googled the poem and, not surprisingly, saw a number of sites that could provide me with the line refreshers that I needed. However, what jumped off the screen at me, under “Little Orphant Annie images”, was your publishing of that page from that very same book that my aunt gave to me probably about sixty-five years ago and which I believe I discarded, likely during my know-it-all-never-read-that-stuff-again teen years. I recognized the drawing immediately, recalling how the images of those two creepy goblins used to keep me awake after my Dad had read me the poem. Being able to share that picture with the two boys while reciting the poem made last night’s bedtime story-telling extra special for me. Both boys listened intently to my recital though not with the same post-telling trepidations that I remember as affecting me as a child. Probably because they are growing up in a more-aware, more-exposed world than our generation experienced I suppose. Weren’t those post-war years wonderful for kids? Still, I’m pretty sure that this poem and the image will be on their request list at future sleep-overs. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Welcome Earl Ray, and thank you for sharing your story! So glad your grandbabies were able to enjoy, replete with picture! Kathryn xox

  17. Thank you so much for posting this. My father, now gone, read to me often from this book when I wa a wee lad of five years. I’m now 52! For years, I’ve been remembering snippits of phrases from the book as well as many of its illustrations.

    You’ve provided me with the title, editor, and illustrator! The goblin illustrations frightened me so much that I could barely look at them as a very young boy!

    After years of searching fruitlessly, I can’t tell you how much your posting means to me!
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  18. Hi, Evan and welcome! Delighted this has served you, and just in time for Halloween! Kathryn xoxo

  19. I don’t know why, as a 53 year old man, I suddenly remembered, this evening, the image of Annie sitting by the fire telling the children about the goblins, but I did! I also remembered the refrain from the Riley poem–after, oh, 48 or 49 years or so!–and I was lead here, where the image and poem are exactly what I remember. The poem and the way my mother read it to me–a lot of spooky emphasis on the refrain–terrified me as a child, but it stuck with me! And I remember the book so well too! Had a beautifully illustrated “Owl and the Pussycat” among so many others. Thank you so much for taking me back so long ago! All the best and peace, Keith.

  20. Hi, Keith and welcome. Thank you. Comments like this make blogging all worthwhile. I’m happy you found this post and that it resonated with you. There must be many of us who were touched by this poem as children. Kathryn xoxo

© 2008 - 2024 Kathryn Hall. All rights reserved.
For optimal viewing Mac users using IE should access via Safari.
Pixel Surgery by Site Mechanix